Monday, September 18, 2017

The Final Frontier

**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**


Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before (Source: Wikipedia).

Many of you are familiar with the above monologue that plays at the beginning of each Star Trek movie/episode. They're the taglines that cause us to know, immediately, this famous cult classic that has been a favorite for decades.

Man has spent a lot of time and energy exploring the outer reaches of the universe. The most famous endeavor being the lunar landing by Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. Since then, missions to Mars and other outlying planets have been investigated/attempted.

There are mysteries in the galaxy that we just can't explain, like a black hole. NASA has described it as follows: "A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeeed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying. Because no light can get out, people can't see black holes. They are invisible." (Source: www.nasa.gov)

Even though invisible to us, black holes do exist. They are a complex phenomenon that have been studied and sought after by scientests and star gazers alike. Even the sci-fi starship Enterprise searched for and, dangerously, encountered black holes whilst fulfilling Starfleet missions.

As a Christian, I wonder about a lot of things that exist that I haven't seen like black holes, the Milky Way, and heaven. Even though I have heard of these things and read about them, there still lies a curiosity in seeing each one with my own eyes.

I'm not sure if I will ever lay eyes on a black hole or the Milky Way, but believe I will see heaven. There's a book in the Bible called Revelation that gives a sneak peek of what to expect from heaven. In Revelation 21, it describes heaven on earth. A place that, "...shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal." (Revelation 21:11)

It will also be a spectacular dwelling where, "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,..." (Revelation 21:4). A destination that, I imagine, will fill the senses and leave me in awe. All that I have read about heaven doesn't compare to how it will be when I see it. Much like it may have been when Kirk and his crew of the starship Enterprise explored the expanse of the universe and boldly went where no man had gone before.

Encouragement for the week:

Even though there are things we can't see, we know they exist.

They are incredible and baffling and lead us wanting to know more.

If you are a Christian, you know that though you can't see God, you know He exists. He's present in everything that surrounds you and within your peaceful heart. God's Word continues to be a true and wonderful source of understanding the unknown and unseen. Be sure to spend time, each day, in the Bible.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him. Even though you can't see Him, He is as real as if you could and He's ready to welcome you into His family.



Monday, September 11, 2017

Understand, You Do Not

**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**

Star Wars is, perhaps, the most popular and iconic sci-fi movie series of our time. If you are a die hard follower of the Star Wars franchise, you are familiar with the many characters that remain beloved to you today - Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, and Chewbacca, to name a few.

My favorite character was Yoda. A...creature of odd proportion, Yoda always knew what to say. He was considered to be exceptionally wise and, at times, spoke in a backward fashion, completely understood by those who knew him well. Skywalker would, often, seek Yoda's wisdom about a variety of predicaments that, young Luke, would often find himself in.

When I first started watching the Star Wars films, Yoda was a bit of a conundrum to me. At times, I didn't fully comprehend him but, over time, and having watched subsequent episodes, came to fully understand Yoda's 'ways'. Dare I say that I started speaking backwards while attempting to duplicate Yoda's voice. Don't tell anyone.

While it was over time I eventually figured Yoda out, there are things in this world that perplex me. Like the uncommon use of common sense, using anonymity to bully, or advocating violence while promoting a 'worthwhile cause'. These, along with so many other things, cause confusion and defy logic.

Growing up, one of the greatest things I didn't understand was God. To me, He was wrathful, distant, and poised to punish. An up-in-the-clouds deity not at all interested in the things that were causing me pain, depression, and anger.

It wasn't until much later in life that I became a Christian and entered into a personal relationship with God. Only then, did I come to fathom all the things that had, once, been pre-conceived as a young woman. Like thinking God was angry all the time and only interested in doling out discipline when, in fact, God was love and there was no denying it once I felt it for myself.

Then, there was the misconception that God had no interest in me or my life, until I spent time with Him. Now, I have come to understand that He's interested in even the smallest detail of every area of my everyday life. It's interesting how confused we can become when we don't take the time to really get to know the source of our misunderstanding.

Now, I can say that many things in life make sense because of the time taken each day to get to know God and His perspective on those things. The world and how it changes also makes more sense because of the time spent in God's Word, the Bible.

There is a book in the Bible called Jeremiah that speaks of a wonderful promise: "...In days to come you will understand it clearly." - Jeremiah 23:20 (NIV). A reassuring promise that, even though I may not understand something in this exact moment, I can look to God, asking for knowledge and understanding, and He will help me figure things out.

I am thankful for this kind of help and wisdom when it comes to navigating life. No matter what the situation, whether I get everything sorted out or not, God will help me and...understand, I will.

Encouragement for the week:

Understanding the difficult things in life can, sometimes, be elusive but with time, knowledge, and careful thought, those things can become less difficult.

With God, it's not so much that I need to comprehend everything in my life as much as it's knowing it's okay if I don't.

If you are a Christian, you know the importance of understanding the true character of God in order to comprehend the daily challenges we will encounter. Keep leaning into Him and He will help you to understand.

If you are not a Christian, and you struggle to understand some things in your life, look for Jesus and you will find Him. He will help you along the way to understand things from a more wonderful perspective than you have ever known.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Not So Fast!

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, 
and where thieves break in and steal." - Matthew 6:19

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**


Sometimes I do things impulsively or because of external pressure, having given little thought to whether or not this 'thing' is good for me. Then, there are times I say things that haven't been properly filtered through my heart, ensuring they are spoken in a spirit of love instead of hurt.

Since becoming a Christian, over ten years ago, I like to think that I have made some progress in these areas, with God's help of course. That I do unwise things less frequently and speak more lovingly because there were years in my life that I operated without any kind of social filter and, who knows, the hearts I damaged. The verbal hurt on others was a direct result of my own pain.

Relationships, especially, can suffer the collateral damage of hurtful things done and said by each person. Words spoken while hurting or frustrated can, often, be like a battering ram to the other person now, blindsided, by something completely unexpected. It can be as easy as an off mood or a frustrating work day that can open the gate to verbal assaults.

I have been there both in friendships and relationships, especially with my words, which always seem to wound more than actions. Elevated emotions are my usual trigger to saying something never intended to hurt. But it isn't long before I feel the sting of regret and act quickly to apologize and make things right. Hurtful words can come from a hurt heart and that's why careful thought and time need to be taken before speaking.

There is a verse in the Bible, within the book of Romans, that talks about the importance of not following what everyone else in the world does but being, instead, someone different. It says: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2)

Ultimately, it's saying to think differently in order to operate differently. To take something insincere and turn it into compassionate, before the words ever leave your lips. To have your thoughts reflect wise actions, beneficial to both yourself and others.

I am thankful and find it refreshing that, with time and some careful thought, my mind can be used to think of others before myself. That my words can be carefully weaved together to bless and encourage others.

There are so many things in the world causing us to say, and maybe even do, things that we wouldn't normally. Things that bring us to extreme emotional heights, resulting in a spewing of critical and hate filled vocabulary. Things that, if we decided to turn our minds away from its negativity, would allow us to renew our minds, adjust our filter, and aim toward that which is good.

So, if you know someone who might lack a social filter, be patient and kind. Words and actions of compassion toward that person could be life changing, for both of you.

Encouragement for the week:

Are there some areas of your life where you need to take extra time to think things over before doing or saying something? We know the popular acronym 'THINK', can help us when we're stuck for what to say:

T - Is it true?
H - Is it helpful?
I - Is it inspiring?
N - Is it necessary?
K - Is it kind?

If we change our minds, our hearts will follow, helping us make better decisions.

If you are a Christian, you know the dangers of being of the world. Be on guard by being renewed and transformed of mind.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and all the ways He will help you in thought, word, and action for a good life.






Monday, August 28, 2017

It's Simple

"He has made everything beautiful in its time..." - Ecclesiastes 3:11

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

The best things in life are simple and give me tremendous peace and joy. Riding on the fender of a 1210 Case tractor while watching it cut hay, eating a fresh from-the-oven banana nut muffin, and sitting by a campfire while gazing at the star studded night sky, are some of these things.

Perhaps the best of the simple things in my life is in the quiet mornings, when I meet with God. Sitting on the couch and looking at the open field, majestic trees, and a passing bird, bring me into a place where I can leave my busy mind and heavy heart behind.

In fact, the word 'simple' has come to mean a lot in the past couple years. Maybe because I have grown a couple years older and, hopefully, wiser. I'm not sure if this acronym exists but here is what simple looks like for me:

S - Sitting
I - In
M - Morning
P - Prayer
L - Listening
E - Expectantly

Sitting, waiting, and listening are three easy activities to do on their own. However, when you are trying to do all three at once, it can be a challenge. Especially when you are really wanting or needing a reply. I've come to learn that if I don't get an answer right away to the things I am asking, and as long as I have peace, I'm in a good place and the answer will eventually come because God promises to answer.

I've also learned that some things are better left unsaid or undone, especially, in a stressful or frustrating situation where I might not be thinking clearly and emotions are heightened. Simple. Then there are times when I must allow myself some time to ask and answer key questions before being involved with something unsavory in nature.

Questions such as: Is this a battle worth fighting? Will this matter in a year? A month? A week? Most of the time, I can answer 'no' right away and move on to something else more light hearted.

Life is too short to not enjoy each day or take yourself too seriously, and laughter can, often, be the remedy to almost every situation. Meeting a difficulty head on with grace, compassion, and effective communication can make all the difference. It can be that simple.

Not to put a stamp on everything in life and say that this or that is simple and easy to navigate because there are certain things that you need to tread lightly in. Things that require more thought and intentional action. Things that, while they may seem simple on the surface, can quickly become complicated. Relationships of every kind can certainly be one of those things.

I used to be a very materialistic person who held stuff and money in high esteem. I could never make enough money or collect enough stuff to bring happiness, contentment, or peace. It actually created the opposite, mainly because the possessions racked up debt which then brought stress and inner chaos. The things I owned soon owned me and I had to file bankruptcy just to get free.

Once I became a Christian, God taught me the importance of managing money while simplifying thought processes and, ultimately, my life. The possessions became fewer while my peace and contentment became greater. It was freeing to discover something that, many years earlier, was foreign to me.

Now, I strive to keep my life simple and if that means purging things I don't need or paying something forward, I'm happy to do it. I also take more time to do things that are simple and enjoyable. There is a wonderful blessing in keeping things simple. Yes, the best things in life are free, but they're also simple.

Encouragement for the week:

Have you ever wanted to simplify your life but don't know where to begin? How about starting with the small stuff. Donate unread or unwanted books to your local church or library. Purge your wardrobe of fashion relics and give them to a thrift store for others to enjoy.

Taking these smaller steps will lead to the bigger things in need of simplicity that you have been putting off. Yes, it can be that simple.

If you are a Christian, you know that Jesus doesn't place any value on the things here on earth. In fact, He says in Matthew 6:19 - "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." (NIV) There is freedom in simplicity.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and the freedom you can enjoy each day, simply, by knowing Him.





Monday, August 21, 2017

Outstretched And Open

**Photo courtesy of Google**

There is something strangely satisfying about cutting grass with a zero turn riding lawn mower, especially when you live on an acreage, like I do. With the slightest push of my hands, forward and backward, and greatest of ease, the mower can be moved in any direction. It hugs trees and zooms down the straightaways, planting a smile on this carefree face.

For me, cutting grass is one of the best mindless tasks, freeing up my thoughts to ponder greater things. One of those things has been reflecting on the challenge of letting go. More specifically and lately, practicing the art of letting go of the hopes and dreams I had for my life. It's ironic that I was thinking this as my hands death gripped the mower handles while grass cutting, but I was.

Just like I had to pry my hands off the handles after completing the mowing, some things we hold onto tightly, in life, also require our hands to be pried off of. Things that can take over our thoughts and actions so much that we lose sight of what it really means to enjoy everyday life. I have been guilty of this for many years.

I used to believe that only marriage would bring fullness and happiness to my life. That without sex, I would die. That if I didn't bring enough readers to my blog, I would be a failure. That if I didn't keep trying to have a relationship with my son now, it would never happen.

Tighter and tighter my grip became on these things and before long, it's all that consumed my thoughts and, inevitably, created frustration. Frustration at things not happening because of my self-driven determination to see them come to pass, followed by misery and discontentment.

It has taken, literally, decades to wade through the muck of who I really am and what needs to be the priorities in life. Enjoying life, continuing to dream, and staying true to my faith while waiting are just a few.

What really matters is practicing all the valuable things that I have learned in my life. Not only from experiences but also from my faith and the Bible. The gratitude I have for knowing God often surpasses my own understanding. The freedom from worry, anxiety, and stress by living a life controlled by someone who knows exactly what He's doing...priceless.

The knowledge that holding nothing tightly only leaves room for greater things to come into my life, is unfathomable yet comforting. I used to want everything in my life to turn out exactly how I imagined it should. Then after seeing it all through the lens of faith, I saw a train wreck at the worst possible time.

Holding onto mediocre and 'feel good' things now, leaves no room for the incredible and best there is to come. It's not worth holding onto the steering wheel when you're headed for the ditch. Nor is it worth expecting good things to happen while holding on to what we've settled for.

If I am willing, which I am, then I can wait. With outstretched, open, and empty hands, I leave room for them to be filled with all kinds of great experiences and blessings.

Encouragement for the week:

It's hard not to want something badly. We all have something in our lives that we don't want to let go of or give up, but is that preventing us from gaining something better?

There is freedom in letting go. It takes the pressure off ourselves and our hearts so that peace and contentment can take over, making life more enjoyable.

If you are waiting for something, that's okay. The longer it takes, the greater it's going to be once it arrives. Enjoy the wait.

If you are a Christian, you know the importance of letting go of the past so that God can take you into the future He has planned for you. Use a pry bar if you have to.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him. He has incredible things for you and will help you let go of your past so that you can enjoy your life while you wait for your future.









Monday, August 14, 2017

The Good Seed

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

This year I decided to try my hand at planting a deck garden. After selecting deep, large pots and planters, I chose my favorite vegetable and herb seeds to plant. Basil and tomato, parsley and pea, cucumber and cilantro. Those and more were, carefully, placed in the soil and the waiting began.

A couple days went by and nothing. Then a couple weeks passed with no evidence that seeds had even been planted. You can tell that I'm a patient person.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that if the seeds were meant to produce, they would. Until then, I knew that the right soil had been used and that each pot and planter was being watered, accordingly.

As you can see from the photo above, the seeds not only took root and started to grow, but they each produced a harvest of delightful and delectable eats. I was quite impressed with the outcome and, lately, have been wondering that if I were a seed to be planted, what would I grow to be?

Would I become a mighty tree, strong with deep roots, facing every difficulty in my life with determination? Or would I grow into a beautiful and fragrant rose bush, emitting my greatest fragrance when crushed by inclement circumstances? Perhaps a whimsical and delicate daisy?

Whatever the harvest, I would want to be a seed that brings a bountiful and overflowing harvest of goodness, compassion, and empathy. A strong, determined, and courageous manifestation that others could benefit from.

That when picked and used, could leave an imprint or fragrance in that person's life, if only for a short time. So, am I just one kind of plant or a cornucopia of herbs, flowers, and trees?

Depending on the situation and the things that life throws my way, I might have to take on a form of continual metamorphosis. That when life gets hard, I am the mighty and determined oak tree.

That I am the protective and loving rose when a friend needs healing and encouraging words in their time of pain. That I am that easy going daisy, fun and carefree, when someone needs a laugh after a long and discouraging week.

While the type of seed doesn't necessarily matter, the soil does. It is the soil that will determine the seed's rate of growth and its ultimate multiplication into a harvest that could feed many.

The same stands for each of us. To be a source of 'food' for others, our hearts have to be tilled and worked so that each seed planted in us can produce an incredible bounty (joy, laughter, encouragement, etc.), to be enjoyed by others.

Encouragement for the week:

If you were a seed to be planted, what would you become? A grumpy recluse or a loving extrovert?

We each hold seeds in our hearts that, if properly nurtured, can be of benefit to everyone around us.

If you are a Christian, you know how important it is to have good soil in your heart to plant strong and worthwhile life seeds that will grow to benefit others. Take care of that soil.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and all the good seed you will need to grow a great harvest of goodness in your life.






Monday, August 7, 2017

Imagine

"In that day the LORD will whistle for flies from the distant streams of 
Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria." - Isaiah 7:18

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Growing up, I used to imagine all kinds of things. As a kid, it was that I would be a police officer, superhero, fire fighter, or farmer. As a teenager, I imagined being popular in school, attractive to boys, and smarter than my sister. While I knew these three teenage and hormonal driven dreams were far fetched, there was something hopeful in imagining them to be possible.

Now, imagine the impossible - walking after a spinal cord injury when the doctors said you would never walk again; conceiving after years of infertility; a second, clear ultrasound that, weeks before, showed cancer; being homeless, involved in a serious accident that takes one of your legs, then receiving a prosthetic leg for free.

Each scenario above has a living, breathing person on the other end of the impossibility. Each person experienced the miraculous come from their impossible situation that they never would have dreamed of going through. I knew these persons, some directly and some indirectly, as they faced their harsh reality. I couldn't help but long to know how their negative became a positive.

Was it a change of attitude? A fuelled determination to never give up on themselves or their situation? A believing faith? I believe all three played a part and that there is something powerful in the mind, and heart, that can imagine the impossible and dream, what appears to be, the unreachable dream, no matter how ridiculous.

Do we really know for sure that imagining something can't become real? Albert Einstein once said, "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." Imagination is what put man on the moon and the first motor vehicle on the road. Imagination is what fuels possibility and fulfills big dreams. It's seeing success in the face of, apparent, failure.

To imagine is to dream. A concept I have been extremely hesitant to exercise for a long time. Okay, that's not quite accurate...I have been scared to do because the dreams I had for my life years ago have just seemed to fizzle out. Even though I had incredible convictions about the validity of those dreams and imagining them coming to fruition.

Thankfully, I had an opportunity to do something different this past weekend that encouraged me to imagine the impossible again. To muster the courage to dream in big ways and tell my heart that it is, in fact, okay to do so. That without imagining and dreaming, life will drone on without much excitement or anticipation. I want to be excited about life and all the possibilities that exist when I allow myself to imagine.

At my age and stage of life, there really is nothing preventing me from seeking out and doing those things that once seemed impossible. Of course, this is all within reason and having a good dollup of common sense and wisdom along with. At the end of the day, I am still realistic about what I can and cannot do while relying on God to help me along the way.

For me, Jesus is the reason I have the hope that I do. He is the reason I dreamed big before and how I, recently, came to be encouraged to do it again. He does that. He knows what is in my heart and how much I really want to not only imagine the impossible but, also, live out the impossible. To hold nothing back and be excited about what could be. 

I want to imagine myself married, as far fetched as that might be. I want to imagine doing incredible things for God, even though I don't quite know what that looks like or what form it might take. I want to be completely open to any thing at any time, anywhere. To poke the imagination bear out of hibernation.

Now, it's your turn. If you were to imagine your impossible...what would it be? What big dream have you stopped dreaming? Would you be willing to walk through your fear and disappointment in order to imagine again? I bet there is still something inside of you who has held on to your dreams, even if it is by the tiniest corner, with the edges of your finger nails.

Grab hold of the dreams and let your imagination soar. It's time.

Encouragement for the week:

Imagine the impossible. Go ahead. The impossible happens all the time and your impossible is of no exception.

Allow yourself to dream. Don't let your imagination slip away and fall to the ground because it can take you everywhere!

If you are a Christian, it is the power to imagine the impossible that believing faith fulfills. God tells us in His Word to imagine (Ephesians 3:20) because He promises to do even more than what we ask or imagine.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and experience the great promises and power behind God's Word, God's heart for you, and His desire that you imagine the impossible.